Arizona Cardinals 2023 Offseason Preview

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Arizona Cardinals 2023 Offseason Preview


Arizona Cardinals 2023 Offseason Preview

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Meet the New General Manager, Monti Ossenfort: Offseason responsibilities, trades, free agency, draft picks, culture change

On January 16th, 2022, the Arizona Cardinals welcomed Monti Ossenfort in as the new general manager to their organization. Ossenfort has been in the NFL since 2001, and spent most of his career as a scout for the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2019, winning four rings at that time. In 2020, Ossenfort was promoted to director of player personnel by the Tennessee Titans. Ossenfort is the first outside hire the Cardinals have made in 30 years, following the disaster at the end of the Kingsbury-Keim era. Ossenfort could offer the Cardinals a much-needed culture shift, with his Patriots history undoubtedly offering some insight into the makings of an NFL dynasty. 

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Also notable is that Ossenfort worked with Brian Flores from 2004-18, leading many to connect Flores to the Cardinals vacant coaching job. The former Dolphins head coach notably led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons before being unceremoniously fired last offseason. Flores filed a lawsuit against multiple NFL teams following his dismissal from Miami, citing racial discrimination as the reason for his firing. Despite including the Cardinals’ in his lawsuit due to their handling of Steve Wilks’ 2018 season as head coach Flores recently interviewed with the Cardinals for their vacant head coaching position. However, Flores’ relationship with Ossenfort could result in a reunion in the desert. 

Ossenfort will have a tough task ahead of him this offseason, with plenty of holes to fill, and plenty of options to fill those holes. JJ Watt has officially retired, meaning the Cardinals have 27 players set to become unrestricted free agents. The Cardinals unrestricted free agent list includes: 

  • Defensive End Zach Allen 
  • Cornerbacks Byron Murphy and Antonio Hamilton
  • Centers Rodney Hudson (If he opts not to retire) and Billy Price
  • Guards Cody Ford, Justin Pugh, Will Hernandez, Max Garcia, and Sean Harlow
  • Wide receivers AJ Green and Antoine Wesley, 
  • Running Back Darrell Williams 
  • Outside Linebackers Nick Vigil and Kamu Grugier-Hill, 
  • Punter Andy Lee and Kicker Matt Prater. 

Among those names, Ossenfort should prioritize re-signing Zach Allen and Byron Murphy to lengthy contract extensions. It would also be helpful to re-sign guys like Justin Pugh and Will Hernandez on cheap deals. Furthermore, there are outside targets that could prove valuable to the Cardinals. Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, Colts defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, and Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones are all potential targets for the Cardinals. 

Ossenfort will also have a number of directions to go with the Cardinals in the NFL Draft, as they own the third overall pick in the draft. It would be the highest draft pick an Ossenfort team has ever made, if he were to elect to keep it. However, in his introductory press conference Ossenfort admitted that he is open to all options leading up to the NFL draft. He could end up taking a blue chip prospect with the pick, or trading down for more assets. 

Coaching candidates: Sean Payton, Brian Flores, Vance Joseph, Demeco Ryans… etc. 

The Arizona Cardinals need to figure out the head coaching situation soon, so that they can attack the offseason with a purpose and get the entire organization on the same page. While some very good names remain available, the big fish, Sean Payton, may not be available for Arizona due to the Saints’ trade demands for the Super Bowl champion. Payton, despite retiring a year ago, is still under contract with New Orleans.

The good news for Cardinals fans is that new general manager Monti Ossenfort has options. The bad news, he will have to thread the needle with the right coach for an organization with all kinds of issues, and a coach who can improve quarterback Kyler Murray. 

Sean Payton – former head Saints head coach.

Sean Payton has to be on this list. His instant brand recognition would bring sorely needed credibility to the Cardinals organization. That said, he is reportedly close to a deal to coach the wayward Broncos. Would he be a solid addition on the Arizona sideline? Without question. Payton might be looking for less drama and more stability at the quarterback position, something not readily available in the desert. However, with Russell Wilson looking like a shell of himself at age 34, the Broncos job would bring with it considerable drama as well – especially considering Denver lacks the allure of a young star in Kyler Murray and a top pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. 

Overall: A+.

 Brian Flores – Pittsburgh Steelers Inside linebackers coach/ Senior defensive assistant.

Brian Flores might have a few positives working for him, given that new general manager, Monti Ossenfort has worked with Flores in the past. While that might give him an inherent advantage, it does not make him a slam dunk hire for the Cardinals either.

There is a lot of smoke in Miami. Despite their success, Flores did not have the necessary “people” skills that breed confidence and trust in your locker room. For instance, Flores fired an offensive-line coach just hours after arriving in Miami —  mind you this was a coach he had just hired. He employed more offensive coordinators than he served years as head coach. It cannot work that way when you are the designated leader of a team.

No doubt Flores has proven that he can win games, but given his temperament, how does that square with Kyler Murray? Both have significant egos and both would need to be able to work together. Flores is a potential head coach in the right situation in the NFL or even the college ranks where he can rule with an iron fist.

Overall: C-

Eric Bienemy – Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator.

Eric Bienemy is an absolute riddle when it comes to head coaching hires, specifically, why he isn’t an NFL head coach now. People inside the Kansas City hierarchy know the Chiefs offensive coordinator is ready for his first gig, and have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of offers he has received in recent years – despite ample hype amongst media and fans. After receiving a bevy of first-round interviews with 10 of the 12 open jobs in 2020 and 2021, Bieniemy only received one interview in 2022 – the Denver Broncos. That job ultimately went to Nathaniel Hackett, a hire that was fired without even getting a full season in.

His alleged troubling days in college are a collection of silent disqualifications that general managers and owners seem to find a convenient “no”. Granted the allegations are alarming at first view, but it is worth noting a few things about the allegations at Colorado. Bieniemy was never named responsible for any of the problems that erupted while he was there, and may have been a reason he was a quick riser as a coaching assistant. Now, the NFL needs to take a chance on a career assistant ready for the main stage. He is also a smart candidate for the job at Arizona, where he would fit in nicely with Kyler Murray.

Overall – B.

 DeMeco Ryans – Defensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers.

Don’t kid yourself, DeMeco Ryans is going to be a head coach in the National Football League one day. For the record, Ryans canceled an interview with the Cardinals scheduled for Monday, as he prepares for the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia and possibly for the Super Bowl in Arizona of all places. 

Ryans was a very good NFL player, winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2006. As an assistant, his ascendancy to the top of many potential head coaching jobs has been equally impressive. He started out as the 49ers linebackers coach, and three years later he became the 49ers defensive coordinator. Since then, they have been the single most dominant defensive unit in the NFL. He is young, a former standout in college and in the NFL, so he brings significant credibility with him. It also does not hurt that Ryans earned a resounding approval from recently retired JJ Watt.

Overall – A+

 Dan Quinn – Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys.

Despite another playoff flameout with the Dallas Cowboys losing at San Francisco, Dan Quinn is a name worth keeping an eye on. The idea of Quinn as a potential head coach for the Arizona Cardinals remains a hot topic, as the team recently requested a second interview with the former Falcons head coach.

Quinn was on the losing end of Super Bowl LI after his Atlanta Falcons infamously took a 28-3 lead against New England. But the offense went into something of a “prevent mode” and the lack of aggressiveness when they had their opponent on the ropes cost them dearly. In five seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons never finished worse than 7-9. Still, his lack of sustained success after an impressive Super Bowl run eventually cost him his job. Quinn deserves another shot at the brass ring. He would be a smart hire for the Cardinals as his experience on the sidelines cannot be ignored, nor the stingy defense his track record supports.

Overall – A

The Arizona Cardinals are in a unique position heading into 2023. Their potential is tangible on paper, but has not come to fruition on the field. Make no mistake, Kyler Murray is the straw that stirs the drink in Arizona. He is a riddle, and after his knee injury, it remains to be seen what he will look like. Will he be less dynamic, less of a dual threat with his wanting to run but also not wanting to get hit? Additionally, his conflict with Kliff Kingsbury was in full view in 2022, and it’s no secret veteran players didn’t often see him as a leader.

That said, a major injury can force a player to mature, often putting them down a humbling path in getting back to full strength. If Kyler Murray sees the bigger picture, he may still have a chance to become the superstar the Cardinals drafted.


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